Australian Bishop: 'Refugees live in inhuman conditions'

Desperate refugees, trapped on the islands with shortages of food, medicines and basic amenities

Desperate refugees, trapped on the islands with shortages of food, medicines and basic amenities

Source: Fides/Diocese of Paramatta

An Australian bishop has voiced grave concern over the 'inhuman' conditions of refugees attempting to reach his country.

Speaking after visit to Papua New Guinea and a meeting with some refugees and asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Islands, Mgr Vincent Van Long, OFM, Bishop of the Diocese of Paramatta, Port Moresby, who came to Australia as a child refugee, said: "I've heard of the precarious conditions of refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. However, after meeting some of them, I realized that the situation in which they live is inhuman and dehumanizing. Their history of suffering touched me a lot.

"Meeting the asylum seekers also gave me the opportunity to express our solidarity and the support, prayers and goodwill of the Australian people, which has a great tradition in the care of migrants and refugees. I am grateful for this meeting, but I am worried about their condition."

Nauru and Manus Islands, situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, are home to refugee camps where migrants and asylum seekers heading for Australia are transferred and detained in inhuman conditions after being rejected: the refugees on the island have been living in that limbo now for years and some of them, in a state of physical and psychological despair and prostration, have committed suicide to put an end to their suffering.

Mgr Van Long said a delegation of seven members of the Australian Church met some of the refugees who have been stranded in Papua New Guinea for years. During the visit, the Bishop had the opportunity to visit the houses offered by the Papuan government to migrants. The initiative was launched last August with the intention of transferring asylum seekers from the Isle of Manus to the Papuan capital, offering them decent accommodation, with a home and health care.

"This solution, which also represents a step forward, does not seem to appease the desperation of the detained refugees," the Bishop said after visiting the homes for migrants. "I urge the local Catholic Church to continue its humanitarian assistance efforts and assure the full support of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference and its communities," he concluded.

Since 2013, the Australian government has adopted the 'No Way' policy, based on total closure against migrants: the coasts are guarded by a massive deployment of naval units and those arriving by ship will not have the right to legally establish themselves in the country. Some migrants are brought back to their country of origin, while others are resettled on the island of Manus, territory of Papua New Guinea, or on the island of Nauru in the refugee camps where there is a shortage of food, medicines, water and electricity.

See also: ICN 20 August 2015 - Sydney: Bishop calls Australians to show same generosity his family received when they fled Vietnam 40 years ago -

Tags: Australia, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Bishop Vincent Van Long, OFM, Diocese of Paramatta, Port Moresby

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